While the country’s focus was shifted towards the coronavirus mess yesterday, a brave team of 12 of the finest basketball players Lebanon is currently counting on fought its way past Iraq, merging experience and inexperience to claim a first chaotic win in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers, in front of a shy crowd that highlighted the country’s economic struggles with empty seats urging to be filled at the Nouhad Nawfal Stadium in Zouk Mikael.

A comfortable final scoreline with a 19-point margin (87-68) could not mask an expected messy play by the Lebanese National Team, as new talents progressively adapted to the veterans, highlighting a potentially explosive squad that could, with the right amount of training and coaching, go very far in the upcoming years.

Wael Arakji (21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Ali Haidar (19 points, 7 rebounds) combined a total of 40 points to lift the country from the brink of defeat after a meltdown midway through the 3rd set [Q1 (19-15), Q2 (25-18), Q3 (18-24), Q4 (25-11)], while Karim Zeinoun (16 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists) and Karim Ezzeddine (12 points, 7 rebounds) led the new wave of under-25.

It wasn’t until the team controlled its nerves and compensated for an unorganized offense with an outstanding defense, that they were able to come through, causing Iraq all sorts of troubles, with multiple clock violations and steals in the dying minutes of Q4.

Next up for the team in group D will be Bahrain on Monday, February 24, in the Window 1 of qualifying, at the Nouhad Nawfal Stadium as well (9PM local time Beirut).

After 3 windows, the Top 2 teams from each group will automatically qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021. The windows will take place around February 2020 (Window 1), November 2020 (Window 2) and February 2021 (Window 3).

The 6 third-placed teams will advance to play a final qualifying tournament in February 2021 and the Top 4 from this tournament will qualify for FIBA Asia Cup 2021, which will take place between the 3rd and the 15th of August 2021.

Lebanon’s matches throughout the FIBA Asia Cup qualifications will be as follows:

  • Friday, February 21, 2020 – Lebanon VS Iraq [completed]
  • Monday, February 24, 2020 – Lebanon VS Bahrain.
  • Thursday, November 26, 2020 – Lebanon VS India.
  • Sunday, November 29, 2020 – Lebanon VS Iraq.
  • Friday, February 19, 2021 – Lebanon VS Bahrain.
  • Monday, February 22, 2021 – Lebanon VS India.